Jun 5, 2014

Sea Change for Snakes in Ireland

What would St. Patrick say? Snakes, aka., Pagans, are becoming a visible force in Ireland. The Wild Hunt reports that openly Pagan Deirdre Wadding has claimed a Council seat.

On May 23rd, the 2014 Irish local elections were held, the first set of local elections since a major restructuring of local government was put into place earlier this year. In what seems to be a tumultuous outing, with small left-leaning parties and Sinn Féin largely benefitting, the People Before Profit Alliance gained 15 council seats across Ireland. One of those seats was won by Deirdre Wadding, on the Wexford County Council. Oh, and she just so happens to be openly Pagan, the first such candidate to be elected to office in Ireland.

“Cllr. Wadding, a long-term socialist activist, took the final seat in the Wexford district on Sunday night after a long, two-day count. A vocal campaigner, she has made her mark through her work with the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes and was approached by PBPA on the back of that. She polled an impressive 599 votes on the first count and picked up a number of large chunks of transfers later in the day. Laughing off the description of ‘white witch’, Cllr. Wadding said that she was one of 20,000 pagans across the country but, as far as she knew, was the only one now serving as a councillor. ‘I did ask the Irish Battle Goddess Morrigan for victory today and I have a crow’s feather in my hair as a reminder of her.’”

Wadding has been a visible part of a growing movement in a changing Ireland. Pagans of various stripes are becoming a real force in what has been for centuries a very Catholic country.

It’s Friday night at The Magic Glass, a medium sized bar tucked inside the O’Callaghan Hotel in the center of Dublin. At first glance, the 40-odd people lounging inside seem like average Irish, glowing from the orange of the lamps and the heat of their drink. But they’ve rejected one of the key elements of what it means to be Irish: Catholicism and indeed Christianity.

A group of fit young men compare Celtic tattoos in one corner, a Wiccan crochets a snake doll in another, and a couple at the bar discusses an upcoming handfasting. This is a pagan moot, a regular meeting of the local pagan community including shamans, Wiccans, and Druids.

. . .

And they need each other. In a country where 84 percent of the people call themselves Catholic, non-Christian residents in Ireland live in a world where laws and social norms still have the distinct tang of Catholic morality. Pagan weddings were not considered legal unions by the Irish government until 2009.

But the Catholic Church is losing its grip on the Emerald Isle. A very public fight between the Vatican and Prime Minister Enda Kenny resulted in the withdrawal of the Vatican ambassador. Ireland later closed its embassy in Vatican City.

While many Irish still consider themselves culturally Catholic, church attendance is way down and a recent Eucharist Conference lost out to soccer when it was hosted in Ireland.

The sex abuse scandal has soured the Irish public on its Church. Taoiseach Kenny's rant and the public's warm reception came not just in response to the blistering Cloyne Report, but the Church's continued prevarication in light of it. 

Growing numbers of Irish feel that their Church has broken faith with them. I doubt learning that nuns were flushing the nameless babies of scarlet women will help.

Grim reports that nearly 800 dead babies were discovered in the septic tank of a home run by nuns has set off a round of soul-searching in Ireland and sparked calls for accountability from government and Catholic Church officials.

Fresh research suggests that some 796 children were secretly buried in the sewage tank of the home in Tuam, County Galway, where unmarried pregnant women were sent to give birth in an attempt to preserve the country's devout Catholic image.

Officials said they were "horrified" at the discovery and said it revealed "a darker past in Ireland," a country often haunted by its history of abuse within powerful church institutions.

With a history like that it gets a lot harder to argue against the reemergence of indigenous beliefs the Church also sought to bury.

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